Orthodox Jews: some advice, please.

It’s actually traditional to invite the stranger to read. In your case, I gather, you would have had to decline, but being a stranger is not a reason to exclude anyone.

Are you over 13?

Then you are bar mitzvah. It simply means “son of the commandments,” and reflects the reality that at age 13 you are bound by all the positive and negative mitzvot of an adult male. No ceremony is needed to confer this status.

Do you have to do this 6 more times? Are you going to set the leader straight before the next time now?

Well, of course, I didn’t know any of the other men, and couldn’t be sure that any of them met whatever standards were being applied. But that’s another option for me if the situation arises again.

I was invited to read one of the blessings, and did decline. I could have read the seventh blessing easily enough: “Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam borei pri hagafen,” but that was saved for a guest of honor.

I didn’t know that. Thanks.

No, AFAIK, we haven’t been invited to any of the other brachot, which are being held by other families, and couldn’t attend if we had been, due to other commitments.

So, to the Orthodox men here: knowing what you know about me, would you have counted me in a minyan? Do you know of any Orthodox sects that would have excluded me, and if so, on what grounds?

So far, I like Alessan’s answer best.

You were born of a Jewish mother. Others can argue if you’re a good Jew or a bad one. But you are a Jew.

It’s a shame that that happened. You could have just said that you are, in fact, Jewish and left it at that. It sounds like a misunderstanding. If he knew your background, he would have certainly considered you Jewish.

This reminds me of a story: My uncle, may he rest in peace, was a staunch atheist, but well educated in Jewish tradition. One day he was walking next to an Orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles when a man standing at the doorway asked him if he was Jewish. He said he was, and they asked him if he would come in for a few minutes so they could make a minyan; they were one man short. So he did.

I told my minyan story here before.

suranyi: Was your uncle Jewish?

Thanks for sharing that story, hajario.


True enough, but a) you seemed pretty sure it was you that was intended, and b) it puts the onus on the speaker to say who he thought wasn’t valid for a minyan and why.

Truth is, though, if they offered you to say one of the seven blessings, I doubt that they doubted your Jewishness. Maybe there really were only nine and you miscounted, or the speaker didn’t see someone standing behind someone else.

There’s also yet another possibility, especially if most of the others knew each other - in order to form a Minyan of ten people, six people who have not yet prayed can include four people who have already prayed. Perhaps the speaker, knowing the daily routines of some of the others, knew that he did not have six who had not yet prayed.


The host offered to let me read a blessing, but he was not the prayer leader who wouldn’t count me. In fact, I realized a few minutes later why he was hoping I’d read: he ended up doing it and his Hebrew was very weak. I could have read the transliterations better than he read the Hebrew. So he was probably looking for someone – anyone – to save him the embarrassment. (My wife suspects he was a secular Jew who had never learned Hebrew and had a recent Orthodox conversion.)

Only two or three of the others said they had prayed already, so that wasn’t the issue.

Oh yes. Not just that but his family background was Eastern European Orthodox. That’s why he was well educated in the Jewish tradition. Maybe I didn’t make that clear.

Maybe he knew someone else there…wasn’t a man?:o
Really, I just posted to say Mazel Tov on your good news, late though it is to congratulate you and your bride.

As far as believing in god is concerned, the rabbi of my parents’ synagogue once tried to convince me to come to services. When I said I didn’t believe in god, he admitted that he didn’t either. Of course, I asked him why he had become a rabbi and his answer basically conveyed the idea that it was some sort of social work in his mind. He didn’t say that outright, but that was the impression I got from him. It was a reform shul, BTW.

The Conservative Rabbi told me he thought atheists sometimes converted to Judaism.

Finally! I have a solution if this situation arises again!

A friend of mine who had been raised Jewish and converted to Quaker when he married was at Minicon, a big science fiction convention in Minneapolis. Well, bloomington, but let’s not worry about that. He went to the pool to go swimming and was on his way back to his room when somebody stopped him at the elevator and asked if he was Jewish, because they needed a tenth for a minyan. He said yes, went up and changed and went to a ceremony for the first time in 15 years. He called his mom and said “You’ll never guess what I just did…”

When he told me the story, though, he wondered, “how did they know I was Jewish?” and I said, “maybe you should stop wearing a Speedo?”